wild garlic pesto

We have a small patch of wild garlic growing in our bombsite of a garden.  At this time of year the leaves are fresh and tender and make an excellent pesto.

  • 150g wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 150g hard cheese (cheddar, parmesan, or a mixture)
  • 150g nuts (I used a mixture of walnuts, pine nuts and almonds that all needed using up)
  • 100ml olive oil
  • big pinch of salt
  • black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until it’s all amalgamated, but stop before it reaches a completely smooth paste – it’s nicer if there are still recognisable bits of nuts and cheese.

This will keep in the fridge for about a week with a bit of extra olive oil drizzled over the top in a sealed container, or you can freeze it in an ice cube tray.  Use it as you would any type of pesto – stir it into cooked pasta, or with sauteed mushrooms, or use it as a topping for pizza, or swirl it into vegetable soup.

rhubarb jam

2014-04-17 09.51.46I love rhubarb. And the early forced rhubarb that is almost shocking pink is gorgeous, but unless you grow it yourself it’s hugely expensive!  This rhubarb came from the allotment of one of Chris’s colleagues, so it’s nice and young but not completely pink, and perfect for jam.

  • 1kg rhubarb, wiped, trimmed and chopped into 1cm chunks
  • 1kg jam sugar
  • 2 or 3 oranges
  • 75g stem ginger preserved in syrup

This quantity made four 1lb jars.  Put a layer of jam sugar in the bottom of your preserving pan and cover with a layer of rhubarb.  Continue layering the sugar and rhubarb, and finish with a layer of sugar.  Squeeze the juice from the oranges (should be about 100ml but it’s not a problem if there’s a bit more), and tip it over the sugar and rhubarb mixture.  Put the orange peel in the pan as well – you’ll be fishing this out at the end, so don’t bother chopping it up.  Chop the stem ginger pieces very finely and add those to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean teatowel and leave it for a couple of hours, or even overnight, to draw out some of the juice from the rhubarb.  This helps to keep the rhubarb chunks whole when you’re boiling it up.

When it’s been standing for a while, put it onto the hob and bring to the boil gently. Stir it carefully so that you don’t squash all the rhubarb chunks to mush.  When all the sugar as dissolved, turn up the heat to maximum and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes. Test for a set by pouring a bit onto a really cold plate and waiting a minute or so. If you can see the jam wrinkling up when you push your finger through it, then it’s done.  If it’s not, then keep boiling it for another few minutes and test again.  If it’s done, take it off the heat and leave it to settle for five minutes.  Take out the orange peel, then pour the jam into warmed sterilised jars.  We have an almost endless supply of empty jamjars thanks to Julie at the Eccles Cakery, who uses industrial quantities of jam for making cakes and gives us all the empties!

This recipe is based on one from the River Cottage Handbook on preserves, which is incredibly useful for all kinds of jam and chutney recipes.  I did tweak it quite a bit as the recipe called for forced rhubarb and a quick boil for a soft set, and I’ve made too much runny jam in my life to want to make more on purpose. Rhubarb contains very little pectin, so jam sugar is a must for this.